Espreso. Global

Problems of Russian defense industry, Ukrainian drone strikes, situation in Kharkiv region. Weekly military results by Serhiy Zgurets

18 May, 2024 Saturday

The weekly review includes assessments by Ukraine's military and political leaders of the fighting at the front, as well as massive drone strikes on Russia and bases in occupied Crimea


Situation in the Kharkiv region

The situation at the front remains extremely difficult, as the Russian army still has the advantage in manpower and equipment, and is doing its best to take advantage of the opportunities created by both Ukraine's delay in intensifying mobilization and the long pause in the supply of primarily American weapons. Russian troops are currently most active in the Pokrovsk and Kurakhove directions - these are the main areas of their attack, but to expand the front and, as a result, stretch Ukrainian forces and reserves, Russia began offensive actions in the north of Kharkiv region on May 10, which are the focus of Ukraine's attention this week.

Ukrainian Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi said that Russian troops have expanded the area of active operations by almost 70 km in Kharkiv region, thus trying to force the Ukrainian side to bring in additional brigades from the reserve. Syrskyi says that Russia has focused its main efforts in the Kharkiv sector on the direction of Strilecha - Lyptsi and the capture of Vovchansk, followed by the advance to Bilyi Kolodiazh and the launch of an offensive to the rear of Ukrainian troops. In my opinion, this has to do with the group that is currently holding the Kupyansk direction. In such circumstances, as Syrskyi says, Ukraine must prevent further advancement of Russian forces, and the Ukrainian army must make the most of its advantage in attack drones, electronic warfare and accurate artillery fire.

Zelenskyy's statements on the events at the front

Yesterday, there were also assessments of the frontline situation from the Supreme Commander-in-Chief. At a press conference, Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that the Ukrainian Defense Forces had stabilized the Russian troops and that the deepest point of their advance was about 10 km. He said that very powerful brigades of the Armed Forces are now operating in the Kharkiv region, several areas have been reinforced with battalions, and this is what could be taken from the reserve and other areas.

The president also pointed out several important and interesting things about the perception of certain important events on the front line. In particular, he mentioned the fortifications, saying that Russia has not reached the concrete defense line and that it is nonsense that someone says this. As for me, this still does not remove the question of engineering preparations for defense in Vovchansk itself and the preparation of separate defense lines or positions north of Kharkiv. At the same time, Zelenskyy mentioned that the Russian army was able to break through the defenses in the Kharkiv region, among other things, because of the lack of air defense, as Russia uses drones, and without the defense of Kharkiv, it is quite difficult to fight this.

During his meeting with Antony Blinken, Zelenskyy said that at least two Patriot batteries were needed to defend Kharkiv. We understand that the Patriot has a range of over 150 kilometers, and it could have an impact on the defense of Kharkiv from Russian aircraft.

Zelenskyy also said that for the first time in two years of war, none of the brigades complain about the lack of artillery, and this has been happening for the past two months. The trend is generally positive, even if it did start just now, not two months ago, which means that ammunition is really starting to arrive in the Armed Forces now. I would like to remind you that we need at least 2 million large-caliber shells per year, and 200,000 per month to ensure at least some stabilization at the frontline. Although in some areas Ukrainian military say that Russia has a one to five advantage in artillery, when we are talking primarily about ammunition.

When we talk about the fighting in the Kharkiv region, in general, Russia does not have a numerical advantage in the border areas - in Kursk, Belgorod or Bryansk regions. We know that Russia has a short logistical arm, when they can bring manpower to Ukraine's border, use artillery and aviation located in the depths to strike at Ukrainian territory with little or no change of location.

Of course, the question arises that restrictions on the use of Western weapons to strike deep into Russian territory significantly limit Ukraine's ability to resist. And Zelenskyy said that there should be no ban, because it is not about the offensive of the Ukrainian army using Western weapons, but about Ukraine's defense. But today, the Pentagon said in the comments of the spokesperson that the position remains unchanged, that the weapons that the United States provides to Ukraine should be used to regain Ukrainian sovereign territory, which is true, but it said: we believe that this should be used within Ukrainian territory. So, in fact, now we can say that the situation is similar to when a thief shoots at you with a gun through a gap in the fence, and you cannot do the same with a foreign gun and can only rely on your own weapon.

Ukrainian strikes on Russia

As for Ukraine's own weapons, today there were a lot of interesting things on Russian territory and in Crimea, where Ukrainian drones attacked Russian targets and targets held by Russia on Ukrainian territory. Today was a rather unique situation in terms of the number of strikes, air and sea drones used against Russian targets.

Defence Express military expert Ivan Kyrychevskyi believes that this is a logical continuation of the campaign of strikes on Russian refineries.

"Today's attack shows that we can now cautiously optimistically assume that at least for a short period of time, in terms of the rate of long-range kamikaze drones use, or perhaps even in terms of production, Ukraine has at least gained parity with the Russians, because from the materials that are circulating, we can first take the statement of the Russian Defense Ministry that 102 drones were used by Ukraine - there are videos on the networks that show 80 of Ukraine's drones flying to the same object. Plus, there is this specific story, and perhaps there is reason to believe that even the Liutyi drone was simplified to make its production more scalable. Because what we see in the footage today looks like the Liutyi drone, but it looks like a slightly smaller version, for example, the landing gear was removed, the dimensions were reduced to make it cheaper to produce. As far as we can recall, there was an officially announced figure that the basic version of the Liutyi costs $200,000, which is slightly more than the Russian Shahed, so there was room for improvement in terms of cost reduction," he explained.

I think this requires some additional information, because we had an internal discussion that it doesn't quite look like a Lyutyi drone, but Kyrychevskyi made interim conclusions that the design was probably finalized, and we will see in further strikes on Russian targets how Liutyi has been transformed.

Problems with the Russian military-industrial complex

Today, Defence Express has published several articles that reflect or assess an interview with a Russian official in charge of the Rostec Corporation, which supplies 80% of the weapons to the Russian army, Sergei Chemezov. I was surprised that this is perhaps the first time that Russian officials of this level have begun to complain about certain financial constraints associated with arms production in the Russian Federation.

According to Kyrychevskyi, this interview is significant because a Russian top manager of an important level was the first to talk about the economy on the eve of collapse. 

"Modern Russia's spending has begun to reach the level of the Soviet Union's spending during the war in Afghanistan, and the result is the collapse of the economy due to the enormous overspending on the war. They are reaching the same level there, just like in 1986, there was such a reference. Not only did the Kremlin spend too much on the war, and this threatens to collapse the economy, but it turns out that the Kremlin is at risk of having the entire military-industrial complex collapse," he explained.

The Defence Express military expert added that this is happening because a lot of money is spent on weapons, but the military-industrial complex and local enterprises are left with almost nothing: "If we suddenly managed to save money on weapons production, the Russian Defense Ministry did not stimulate this practice by leaving money locally, but took it all back. It turns out that Chemezov's subordinate, Belousov's subordinate, is hinting that this situation should at least be resolved.

There was also an interesting prospect there - it turns out that even if the Russian military-industrial complex is suddenly put in order so that it does not collapse, it will have to work for 10 years just to stockpile in order to carry out certain stabilization measures."

Kyrychevskyi recalled that Chemezov admitted that after 2030, the Russian aviation industry will not be able to ensure the functioning of civil aviation, because there will be no Western spare parts, and it will be difficult to achieve this on its own: "Tu-214s, which are assembled at the same plant as Tu-160s and Tu-22m3s, strategic bombers, have a plan for up to 70 aircraft by 2030, but only 11 have been confirmed, and Russians need 500 civilian aircraft. So we can see that there are certain signals coming from Russia that their military-industrial complex is on the verge of collapse."

At the same time, during Shoigu's term, there was no mention of this at all, the defense industry was working, he showed various samples of equipment - everything was fine, he talked about increasing the range of weapons by 300 km. The military expert suggests that Belousov may begin to resolve this situation: "It will all come back to 'give us even more money, just to bring order to the military-industrial complex'."

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